July 2006 E-mail Mark Go to markdroberts.com Subscribe to newsletter


Welcome to those who are new to my newsletter and blog update! Thanks for signing up.

Back from Vacation

I'm back from vacation in the Sierras of California. My family and I were camping in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a delightful spot with, you guessed it, Giant Sequoia trees. Just for fun, here's a picture of my daughter Kara doing a cartwheel on the stump of a big tree. Notice that I don't even get the whole stump in the picture. It is twenty-four feet in diameter at the cut, about seven feet off the ground. It was 1,244 years old in 1853 when it was cut down.

If you're interested, here's a link to a panoramic video of this stump and the surrounding region. And here's a panoramic video of the Sequoia grove at Calaveras.

By the way, if you're not familiar with Don Bain's Virtual Guidebooks, you should check it out. This is a very cool site. (You need to be able to view Quicktime videos to use it.)

Afoot and Afield

I hope you found my "Afoot and Afield" configuration to be helpful. It's a little awkward, especially if you're wanting to link to something, but it allows me to keep on putting up new material even when I'm away from the Internet.

E-mail Mess

I got so much e-mail, including lots of spam (sigh!) while on vacation, that my mailbox on my server got full and rejected e-mail for several days. If you sent something to me from June 9 through July 6, you may want to send it again. I've fixed things now so this shouldn't happen again. I hate spam!


Speaking of SPAM, I received a very clever phishing e-mail yesterday. (Phishing is a scam by which people try to get your private information.) The e-mail seemed to be from Paypal. It was informing me that a purchase of a cell phone had been made on my account, with the charge something like $455. This looked very real, with company name, the name of the purchaser, etc. At the bottom there was a link for disputing the charge. I did not use this link, but instead when online and checked my Paypal account. There was no charge of $455. I'm glad I didn't follow the link and dispute the charge. Remember: never go to websites that seem to be legitimate if they're from an e-mail source that you don't know to be trustworthy. If your "bank" e-mails you, go online directly to your real bank.

Reviews and Recommendations


The Devil Wears Prada

Starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway


Starring Adam Sandler and Kate Beckinsale

In one sense, it's hard to imagine two comedies that could be more different. One stars the always elegant and brilliant Meryl Streep, while the other features the never elegant and rarely brilliant Adam Sandler. One features the lives of high-flying women; the other the life of one very ordinary man.

Yet both movies are surprisingly similar in some ways. For one thing, both have very funny moments, and then lots of unfunny moments. For another, both focus on the theme of work vs. personal life. In the end, both movies are about choosing what is most important in life.

It seems like every time I go to the movies these days the main plot has to do somebody who is working too much and therefore ruining his or her life. RV, with Robin Williams, made the same point. I'm sure this reflects genuine struggles in our society, especialy among the sorts of people who make movies. But it seems to me that the theme is getting overworked a bit. At least The Devil Wears Prada featured women who were ruining their lives by working too much.

I am grateful for the reminder about my own choices, and for the encouragement to give my family the priority it deserves. Both Click and Devil made me want to be a better husband and father.

I can't give either movie a clear thumbs-up, however, because both have too many flaws. If you're choosing between them, see Devil if you're a woman or if you're over 25. If you're a teenage boy, Click is your film.

Last Month's Blogging Review

In June I finally finished my long series on The Da Vinci Opportunity. (I still have a couple of things to add, on Christianity pilfering from paganism. )

Then my happy-go-lucky blogging plans were interrupted by the actions of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (my denomination). I did a series entitled: The End of the Presbyterian Church USA. The response to this series has been huge, with many appreciative e-mails and quite a few were critical.

Every now and then in June I contributed to my Colorful Arguments for the Existence of God series. This is a serious series, but fun too, I hope.

I finished June with a short series On Baptists and Blogging. This was an occasion to consider the relevance of technology for ministry. How I wish the disputes in my own denomination were so relatively insignificant as this one!

Future Blogging Plans

I've received a TON of e-mail about the PCUSA situation. I'm thinking about doing a series on what's good about denominations. This will begin on Monday, unless other things happen in the world that require my attention. Beyond that, I have many ideas, but no certain plan.

Reader Comments

Tonight I wrote my resignation letter from the Session of [my PCUSA church]. And then I got on the internet, and ran across your series on "The End of the Presbyterian Church, USA?" It summed up the struggles I have been internally fighting for the past few months, with the PUP looming in the background. Well, I guess it has been a couple of years, even before PUP.

One area we do see differently is that of the cause of unity for its own sake. Unity, as I said in my final letter, is not an end in itself, it is a diversion from the gospel. Staying together in the body of Christ for the upbuilding of one another to greater service, is what I believe the Holy Spirit has intended for us instead.

                                         -  D. T.

MDR Response: Thanks for your honesty. This is a painful time for many of us.


Does God prefer church unity over biblical truth? To me, it is not a matter of following my conscience but honoring God's word.

                                         -  B.D.

MDR response: I understand the tension. But unity is part of God's Word too. The challenge is how to honor God's Word when we're called both to unity and to truth, both to community and to purity.


Hi, Mark… Just to give you a big “Amen” on the statement about spending hundreds of hours cleaning up the messes of the PCUSA. My experience exactly! A huge waste of this church’s time and energy, and my own.

                                         -  D.T.

MDR Response: Sigh!


I am so grateful for the blogs related to GA. I followed your link back to your 2004 posts regarding the homosexual dilemma. You articulate what has been in my heart. I am going to share them with my pastor here.

                                         -  L.B.

MDR Response: Thanks for this note of encouragement.


I am disheartened when I read information that by choice or accident leaves out an important aspect of the discussion.In this case, that omission would be section D. of recommendation 5, as it passed the GA.
I have taken the trouble to underline the few words that it takes to contradict what you are reporting. While I find the progression of your presentations to be logical and well-founded scripturally, it is the initial presumption that is lacking. . . .

Recommendation 5, Section D. Whether the examination [assembly amendment: and ordination and installation decision] comply with the constitution of the PCUSA, and whether the ordaining/installing body has conducted its examination reasonably, responsibly, prayerfully, and deliberately in deciding to ordain a candidate for church office is subject to review by higher governing bodies.

                                         -  J.D.

MDR Response: I only wish I believed that section D made things better. I still think the point of Recommendation 5 is to give freedom to governming bodies to contradict the Book of Order. Section D only restates what is already true, and doesn't correct the error of Section C. I'd love to be wrong here, but I don't think I am.


Note: Comments are edited for length, grammar, and spelling, and to preserve the confidentiality of the writer.